On Saturday night, I tuned in for Laura Marling's livestream gig at London's Union Chapel. We all have that special relationship with certain artists or records, and Laura’s music always seems to soundtrack important moments in my life.

Watching her play to an empty church really brought it home how much the world has changed during the pandemic. I yearned to be there, haunted that I’d taken for granted sitting in those pews and witnessing life-affirming sets over the years.

Yet seeing Laura play up close in this digital live format — in real-time but physically far away — offered something new too.

Compared to an offline gig, there were some obvious benefits. The sound quality was spectacular, the close-range camera shots were great, and every audience member sat comfortably and saw everything (short people like me will especially appreciate that last part).

There were also drawbacks. There was an absence of a build-up and build-down, there was a lack of “in-the-room” atmosphere, and there was no opportunity for human connection between artist and observer. But there was another layer of interaction, and it’s one I hadn’t thought about much in this context before: online community.

Given it was a remote performance with a distributed audience of gig-goers, I was able to “attend” this gig with friends in four different countries. We watched the show simultaneously, and scheduled time to catch up before and chat after. For those with friends and family located globally — or just people who enjoy making friends online — livestream gigs offer the chance to connect around music as a borderless, internet experience. That’s exciting.

I don’t think livestream gigs will replace getting sweaty with other people in venues with sticky floors for the long-term. There’s just too much fun to be had doing that, as I learned working in the music industry early in my career.

But the model is established now: people are willing to pay money for tickets and attend digital gigs in their thousands. The choice between online and offline gigs could soon be standard for music fans.

It seems that the future of live music looks…kind of like the future of work.

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PS: Counterflows reader Jade Hammond of Rosa Foundation asked me to share details of this emergency fund to support women in need. The pandemic has caused an uptick in demand for vital services, so Rosa are raising £250k to distribute amongst the small, specialist organisations that provide them. Send them your spare change if you can.

The Big Idea: The Future of Living

So often when we talk about the future, we focus on work. Understandably so. It’s how most people spend 40 hours of their week — longer if you count commuting and out-of-hours emails — so it’s an area deserving of our scrutiny.

But if lockdown has taught us anything, surely it’s that we should move beyond talking about work alone and turn our attention to the future of living in general, as I said on Twitter last week:

Conversations around stuff like the usefulness of Zoom meetings and the morality of employee surveillance will continue, but let’s be honest: it all got boring weeks ago. Now it’s just incomprehensible news feed noise.

What’s the future of culture, art, play, creativity, travel, friendship, love, and human connection? Don’t these areas also deserve our attention? What does the future feel like? What will it be like to experience it?

Maker of the Week: Lauretta Ihonor

Like most people, I pretty much fell in love with Lauretta within minutes of meeting her. She’s a trailblazing portfolio careerist with an incredible vibrancy about her.

Lauretta has changed careers five times. First, she graduated medical school and became a doctor. Then she decided to pursue work in the fashion industry, becoming a stylist with Net a Porter and L’Oreal. Then she started reporting for CNN, BBC and Sky News. After that, she became a nutritional consultant.

These days, she’s an entrepreneur and creator — and, of course, a proven master when it comes to climbing the career ladder and breaking into new industries.

Lauretta is awesome because she’s bold, fearless and intuitive. She’s a true portfolio careerist who proves time and time again that she can do anything she puts her mind to.

Now, she’s helping others do the same through The Ambition Plan, a media and learning platform aiming to guide people from confusion to clarity in their careers.

Handpicked for You

🎧  Is This Working: “We don’t want to go back to normal”

In their final podcast episode of the season, freelancers Anna Codrea-Rado and Tiffany Philippou review what they’ve learned about work, creativity and life under lockdown. From wellbeing routines and personal productivity to the pursuit of meaning and satisfaction in work and play, they conclude that lockdown has changed everyone for good. Things can’t go back to normal after this; the definition of “normal” has shifted forever.

🗞️  “We can’t breathe” by Gary Younge

Gary is one of the finest writers and thinkers of our times. Reading his work and talking to him has enriched my writing and perspective every step of the way. I worked for the Guardian when he was its editor-at-large and he generously helped me navigate decisions, apply for fellowships and dream big as a working-class kid from nowhere. In this longform piece for New Statesman, Gary reflects on his experience in post-Katrina New Orleans, the US race riots, and the impact of coronavirus on people of colour.

🖥️ Crowdcast - “interactive live conversations at scale”

Potentially controversial opinion: I love the webinar format and I really hope it stays popular beyond the pandemic. I’ve attended masterclasses in London over lunch and workshops over dinner in New York these past few weeks. I’ve spoken on loads and run one of my own. I’m super inspired by all the global conversations that are suddenly happening. But, damn, Zoom webinar packages are expensive. Crowdcast is a more interactive and affordable alternative that focuses more on creators.

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